Friday, January 18, 2013

Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed

The depiction of an American Revolutionary Army Soldier
is by Randy Steel. You can see more of his magnificent work
at Fine Art America.

The right of the people to own guns (guns, guns, guns and more guns) is a complex and troubling issue and it will be impossible to solve it until the people move to do so.
by Charlie Leck

I have been trying to write a blog about gun control for weeks. My main purpose has been to explain the Second Amendment in intellectual and historical terms (using the Federalist Papers as a guide). This, I have found out, is not an easy task because both the amendment and the papers were written in a place and time (Sitz im Leben, the German intellectuals called it) that was so extraordinarily different than our own that it doesn’t make sense in this highly modern era.

Today, along came a letter in the NY Times from a former Prime Minister of Australia who had (absolutely had) to fight guns in his own nation. He offers friendly advice and guidance to America. I was touched by the genuineness of the letter and also by its thoughtfulness. I urge you to read it and then to pass it along to friends who might also be concerned about this issue.

“…on April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant, a psychologically disturbed man, used a semiautomatic Armalite rifle and a semiautomatic SKS assault weapon to kill 35 people in a murderous rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania.
“After this wanton slaughter, I knew that I had to use the authority of my office to curb the possession and use of the type of weapons that killed 35 innocent people. I also knew it wouldn’t be easy.”

Part of this complex arrangement in Australia included a “buy-back” plan to reimburse people who had spent money on the weapons the government now wanted to make illegal. Under the plan, nearly 700,000 guns were bought back and destroyed (“the equivalent of 50 million guns in the United States).

I’ll say right off – out front and in full disclosure – that Australia had nothing like our Second Amendment with which to deal. It had not been necessary for them to go through a “revolutionary war” in order to secure their independence.

The Second Amendment is a baffling statement of a right – it is more than a conundrum because we can no longer place it properly in its Sitz im Leben. Yet, without being able to understand “the place in time” in which the Second Amendment was adopted, we cannot ever be freed from it. We are no longer going to find a need to recruit “well regulated” citizen armies out of their homes to fight again to secure our independence. (But, that is a whole other blog!)

What we need now is to find a way to get hold of a growing American fantasy love with incredibly high-powered and dangerous weapons. If ever there was a time for Americans to calmly and reasonably discuss solutions to horrific mass murders in the strangest of places (movie theaters and elementary schools just to begin listing them), now is that time.

In no way do I want to take reasonable sporting weapons away from my neighbors. I do want to rid from our private society the kinds of weapons that soldiers take into battle against the forces of evil. We have got to beg Americans to be reasonable about this.

Reading this remarkable letter from John Howard is a good beginning.

Friends of mine in Europe (several of them) have written to me about this terrible Connecticut school incident and either told me or asked me about America’s attitude about life. “Is life so cheap in America? Has it no value?” (Est-ce que, la vie est tellement pas cher en Amérique? At-il aucune valeur?)

The question hurts me – it hurts my feelings and it wounds my great American pride. Of course, life is not cheap. But how to I explain it – this right to own guns – the Revolutionary War and the Taming of the Wildwest? It is unique history that even the great French Revolution (1789) can not duplicate. How does one explain that Sitz im Leben of the American revolutionary who was also a farmer and a hunter of game and then suddenly a soldier in a citizen army, fighting for his country’s freedom?

The struggle goes on in my mind. How shall we ever free ourselves from this tiny piece of the land’s revered Constitution without understanding the historical moment in which it was written and adopted?

The following is the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America as ratified by the states and certified by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

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1 comment:

  1. Has anyone ever defined what "a well regulated militia" is?